STOKER’S DRACULA (Josh Hitchens): 60-second review

Josh Hitchens in STOKER’S DRACULA (Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy)

Josh Hitchens in STOKER’S DRACULA (Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy)

A solo dramatization of one of the world’s most terrifying horror stories, STOKER’S DRACULA, adapted and performed by actor/director/playwright Josh Hitchens, is an enthralling 70-minute condensed version of the 1897 vampire classic that will leave your hair raised, your skin crawling, your spine tingling, and your blood curdled. Hitchens, who specializes in telling classic and contemporary tales of terror, first presented the piece in June 2011; this year’s three-night Halloween-season run, in the intimate Art Church of West Philadelphia (a new venue that opened in September on the first floor of a rowhouse), is the popular show’s twelfth revival, and a powerful tribute to Bram Stoker’s famous Gothick novel.

In a remarkable performance, Hitchens assumes all the roles—both male and female—with split-second timing, changing his voice, accents, physiognomic expressions, and physical demeanor with each characterization. Under Ken Jordan’s intensely focused direction, the lone actor moves around the room in a black coat and hat, with only a chair and a blood-red leather-bound edition of the book as props. He brings startling movements and scary inflections to Stoker’s haunting words, carefully retaining the author’s original text, extraordinarily visual language, and first-person narrative format, which recounts the story through diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings, and ship-log notations. The eeriness of the script is enhanced by a single spotlight that casts ominous shadows on the walls, and that Hitchens at times extinguishes, plunging the space into total darkness and allowing the viewer’s imagination to run wild. Even with the absence of light, you will be held in rapt attention by this brilliant tour de force. [The Art Church of West Philadelphia, 5219 Webster Street] October 29-31, 2014; www.westphiladelphiaartchurch.org.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.